Moving to Spain
You're thinking of moving to Spain.
You’ve decided Spain would be quite a nice place to live and work, or perhaps just to live if you are retired or about to.
If you are already a member of the European Community, it is a relatively easy process. EC rules allow all members from member states to live and work in any other member state country.
If you are from anywhere else, it is less easy but not impossible.
Acquiring a NIE Number
A British citizen, for example, just needs to present his passport plus a spare photograph at the local police station in the area they are moving to. For a small fee they will be given a NIE number. This is a personal number that will follow you around all the time you live in Spain. It is needed for everything, even including your application for a loyalty Carrefour Customer card! I’ve got a NIE, but have never been able to get a loyalty card yet – they keep fobbing me off with excuses. Gets that I just don’t shop there ever.
Anyway, this NIE number is of vital importance. You will need to produce it if you get a job, or if you hire a car, or buy a car on finance, or even to rent an apartment.
If you open a business, or take out a mortgage on a house, or even if you pay for your house in cash, you will need your NIE.
The other thing that used to be required is that you take out what they call residencia. You are a resident of Spain, and the Spanish themselves have a national security card that can be used at airports instead of a passport. For a long time, Spain has insisted that all of its immigrants carry this card.
Then round about 2003 they declared it no longer a necessity. Members of other European EC states did not need to apply for one.
Application is not that easy anyway. It involves a trip to Alicante (from my area) where you wait in line for someone to take your fingerprints, hand over a fee, your NIE number (of course) your passport (again) and receive a nationality card, that isn’t actually a nationality card but one that just says you are resident in Spain (in case you are confused about which country you live in).
[Note] Another recent rule change means that you can now apply for residencia at any national police office and you no longer need to go to Alicante or your nearest major metropolis].
Capital Gains tax
So now we are in strange situation. Residencia is no longer a requirement, but you still need it prove you have been living here. This matters when you come to sell your house, because the tax rate on capital gains tax is different between residents and non-residents.
I believe someone (with money obviously) paid a QC recently to take them on in court, and WON! There should not be difference between the rate of capital gains tax you pay whether you are resident or not. Obviously if you sell and buy locally, they will be no such tax, but many people sell because they simply can’t afford their mortgage in this recession. Who is to say you are selling and quitting the country? You might be renting your own house back.
Empadronment - registering at the local authority
Now it seems a bit daft to me, because wherever you live in Spain, you will have, or should have, registered yourself at your local town hall.
This is called empadronamiento. You have joined the padron. The town council can now claim more money from central government for your upkeep.
It’s basically the same as registering for rates or council tax, though you know that even if you don’t register these bills keep arriving.
With the letter they give you to say you are registered at the Town Hall, you can take out HP apparently. I tried it but they told me I had to be working first!
Your empadronamiento papers are important, so remember to keep them safe.
Working in Spain
It is the law in Spain that your employer must give you a contract to work under, and that he must pay your share of social security and tax. Many employers like to get round this by offering casual work, but there is a big fine for him if he is caught.
You as a worker will find that without a contract, you are not entitled to health care if you get sick, nor unemployment benefit if you find yourself unemployed.
While there are a lot of things I like about the way Spain runs things, I do feel there is an unfair burden on the employer here. The minimum social security payment is €240 a month, and that is a lot of money for the small businessman to find on top of wages.
Contract workers have a minimum wage set down by law. I believe it is in the range of €5 an hour.
Spanish Legal System
I actually like their criminal system. If someone does something to you, whether that is allowing their dog to bark all night, thereby depriving you of sleep, or cheat you in a business transaction, or just beat the living daylights out of you, you can just go along to your local police station and denounce them.
You explain your story to the policeman on duty, he takes a note of it, and the accused duly gets called to court to explain his actions.
You the accuser will also get a call to go along as witness, and it is at this time you can round up any witnesses that can speak in your favour, if you hadn’t already given names at the time you made the denouncement. If you had, they will also receive a summons to attend.
The court listens to both sides of the argument, and makes its decision there and then.
Back in the UK, you make your complaint to the police (same as here) then they speak to the witnesses, and forward all the paperwork to the court who then decides if a prosecution is to go ahead.
The police have definitely got less work to do here, but the courts more.
If someone assaults you, you have to attend a doctor and get a written report from him about your injuries, as well as make the denuncia yourself at the police station. The police will want a copy of the medical report.
Armed with both, the courts can and will take over the case of the private prosecutor. They will effectively sue the assailant for damages.
If the assailant (after being found guilty in court) has any assets, they will be seized to compensate the victim.
There are many people here in Spain, who can NEVER own a house, or take out HP, or have household bills in their name, because they had previously been convicted of a violent offence.
Knowing this, it certainly does make you think twice about starting a fight, or being the one to strike the first blow.
In Spain, there is no redemption. You can’t serve your time in jail and come back out and lead the life you may have lived before, if you were the cause of someone else’s misfortune.
So there we are, I have discussed a little bit about the Spanish system.
By far and the biggest problem most folk find when they move here is the language barrier. They’ve come on holiday to the likes of Benidorm, and found that everyone, more or less, could speak English.
Well I can tell you that the only Spanish who can speak English work in tourist resorts.
Those who don’t, can’t, or won’t. Even the local police in Benidorm don’t have much of a command of the English language, far less lawyers or someone you need to communicate with.
And why should they? This is Spain. This is a foreign country and these people are proud of their heritage and did not need to learn English until the English speakers came along.
The Spanish call the tourists ‘guiris’ (pronounced ‘geeries’).
It means, more or less, to babble. That is how they heard us speak, babbling. We could say the same of them, only there aren’t many Spaniards in the UK without at least basic level English.
Yet we think we can live amongst them, in their own country, without at least a basic level Spanish? How arrogant of us!
I had a dear friend in Benidorm. This girl was a nutter through and through. Sorry but no other words can describe her.
She went for a job in McDonald’s in Benidorm, thinking to herself, that can’t be hard because burgers are the same word, chips are patatas fritas, a Big Mac is still a Big Mac (pronounced Beeg Mac)
At the interview they asked her if she could speak Spanish?
“Si”, she replied.
There was a silence in the room while they waited for her to elaborate.
Finally, they urged her “y mas?” (and more?)
That’s when she opened her big gob and said “ I can say ‘si’ and ‘no’ and ‘por favor’ and ‘gratias’.
She didn’t get the job! Unsurprisingly.
To live in Spain, it is necessary you have either the money to pay for a translator every time you deal with authority, or to learn the language. To make matters worse, here on the Costa Blanca their official language is Valenciano, which is very similar to Catalan. Spain has many languages but only one official one, and that is castellano.
If you learn Mexican Spanish, you will soon realise that the Spanish language is different, although understandable to all Spanish speakers. It is probably the equivalent of the difference between English English and American English.
I tried to learn Spanish using a Mexican Spanish program, but soon discovered the differences. However, they are not that great, and Mexican Spanish speakers can rest assured knowing they are more likely to find a comfortable home here in Spain than those that have not learned any of the language.
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